In the new year I’ll be back to answering your questions about life and Mormonism, but I wanted to do something a little different with today’s column, my tenth, and send a letter myself.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the feeling of not being or having enough. So many people, people I love and deeply respect, are plagued with the feeling of not being good enough and not having enough. In every effort, in every contact they make with another human being, they are left wanting, depleted, wishing they were more or that they had more. It’s not stuff that people want, we all seem to be burdened, loaded with stuff. Our hunger is more primal and fundamental — we want love, we want meaning, we want to feel like we can sit still for a few moments without wanting to jump out of our skin. This hunger infects everything, it colors our vision so that all we can see is poverty.
Which is not to say that we aren’t all walking around with genuine suffering – inescapable shortcomings, losses, betrayals and failures that come to us randomly or by our own hands. I spoke to a woman this week who was buying a skirt for her sister’s funeral. She was having a difficult time making a choice, wandering from store to store like a dazed beggar, stunned by her own sadness and loss. “Terrible at Christmas,” she murmured. Terrible all year long, the losses and heartbreaks we suffer. Christmas just gives us an added dose of expectation, a knife twist of forced good cheer. But moving away from poverty is not about ignoring or feeding our hunger. It’s not even about counting our blessings or whistling a happy tune. You can’t make something shitty, like losing your sister, or being far away from loved ones, being rejected or feeling like you’re wandering around without purpose or direction, physical hunger or financial uncertainty, feel better.
What can make us feel better is sitting still long enough to give our suffering its due. We can reframe our expectations, let go of the harshness with which we judge ourselves and each other. And, if we can sit with ourselves and find enough space to see as clearly as possible, we may be able to see the overflowing abundance that exists right alongside the poverty, the dynamic push and pull of life. We may be able to see how full our lives are, how they are bursting with small kindnesses from friends, family and strangers. We may be able to see our talents, our promise, our moments of love and insight, the fleeting beauty contained in each day. Seeing clearly doesn’t fix anything, but it does illuminate our lives, shine light into our dark corners and give us the courage to keep reaching in spite of suffering.
This is my wish for all of you at this time of year. That we see our lives in all its messy richness, in all of its marvellous abundance.
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